Advertising's Biggest Night Was Anything But

February 5, 2018 Ron Tite

What a difference a year makes, huh?

Last year, a lot of brands confused brand purpose with brand cause and aligned their Super Bowl communications with social policy to meekly mumble just how anti-Trump they were. Cut to Super Bowl 52 (apparently, there’s an L in it): Consumers are exhausted with political discourse and desperately need some poorly produced spots to distract them. Voila!

Normally, we’re treated to a night of D-List stars in need of triple scale fees on a national TV spot. Not this year. There were actual famous people featured. I just can’t figure out why. At the end of the night, I was left scratching my head and thinking, “All that for just that?”

Did we need Keanu Reeves to remind us to reserve a domain? Bill Hader was wasted by Pringles, Martha Stewart was confused by Jack in the Box, Chris Pratt was poorly cast and horribly directed for Michelob, Steve Tyler sold his soul for Kia, and while I absolutely LOVE Danny Devito, did M&M’s jump the shark by personifying their candy characters into Louie De Palma?

The spots weren’t all bad and they weren’t all good but IMHO, here are the best and worst:

TOP 5

1. TIDE: Its a Tide Ad
Car ad. Beer ad. Insurance ad. Diamonds ad. Soft drink ad. Mattress Ad. Shaving ad. Nope. They were all Tide ads. When was the last time a Procter and Gamble brand won the Super Bowl? Either that’s how bad the night was or that’s how far P&G has come. Even consumer advocate, Darren Libman agrees. In parodying some advertising formulas and stereotypes, Tide managed to not only convince the CPG’s leadership to walk away from the often utilized “before and after dirty sock” shots, but also convince their colleagues from Old Spice and Mr. Clean to open their assets for ridicule. It worked. Repeatedly. Bonus Points: Ending the Old Spice whistle with the words, “Tide Ad” was auditory genius. Demerit points: Is it just me or does the whole thing smell like Energizer Bunny?

2. AMAZON: Alexa Loses Her Voice

If there’s something Amazon needs, it’s personality. In some circles, Amazon is seen as the faceless, data-centric, robot-fuelled, drone-delivering, auto-ordering, computer-generated voice talking e-commerce engine that signals the downfall of society. They’re not. But putting a face on the organization, CEO Jeff Bezos, and unofficial spokesperson, Alexa, was critical. Luckily for them, they did it. Sure, they had some help from Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson, and Anthony Hopkins, but the appearances were playfully supporting. Bonus Points: The Amazon employee’s performance. Demerit Points: We’ve seen this Silence of the Lambs version of Anthony Hopkins too many times. Can someone cast him as an M&M?

3. FEBREZE: His Bleep Dont Stink

Every second Super Bowl spot seems to feature beer, nachos, or wings. No one ever talks about the bathroom ramifications of all that food. Febreze did. This premise could have easily been flushed but having the talent actually say “bleep” instead of using the sound effect was the difference maker (as were the subtle directorial touches like having the doctor talking with her mouth full when she says, “…He’s a freak”). There’s a fine line between funny and not. Luckily, great casting and performance kept this one on the right side. Bonus Points: Ex GF’s boyfriend correcting her with, “It’s bleep”. Demerit points: It didn’t need a lawyer joke on top of a poo joke.

4. AVOCADOS FROM MEXICO: #GuacWorld

The avocados may have been from Mexico but most of the talent in this spot was from Canada. No wonder I liked it! (Full disclosure: Good friend and comedy colleague Jennifer Goodhue was in it along with Second City alum Nigel Downer). The premise of a protected bubble world was totally fun and the epic meltdown that ensued was pretty damn funny. Even the self-deprecating presence of Chris Elliot made me laugh. Bonus Points: The head shave.

5. JEEP: Anti-Manifesto

You know that spot where there’s just a shot of a dog chewing a delicious bone with no voice over and that’s all you need because the dog’s enjoyment says it all? This is the car version of that spot. I wish they had the confidence to remove the V/O but the simplicity still works with it. Bonus Points: No music.

Honourable mentions:

Tourism Australia, Toyota’s One Team, Blacture.

BOTTOM 5

1. GROUPON: Who Wouldnt?

There always has to be one. Every year, some brand will resort to a kick to the groin, a stick to the groin, or a ball to the groin. Thanks for keeping the juvenile tradition alive, Groupon. Even the funny Tiffany Haddish couldn’t save this one. What a waste. For some reason, this spot feels like it was from the first dot com era.

2. T-MOBILE: #LittleOnes

This ad should have been called, “How to stand for everything so you don’t stand for anything”. Are we with you? No, T-Mobile, we’re not. We’d rather be with the real activists who have credibility in leading all the social causes you jammed into this commercial. If T-Mobile is right, nothing will stand in the way of success for these children… except having appeared in this horrible spot.

3. WENDY’S: Honesty is the Best Policy

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took the community manager in charge of your twitter account and put them in charge of your television advertising? Don’t. Just watch this spot. Aside: Did the media agency forget to leave the creative agency budget for production? One doesn’t spend $5 million in media just to repurpose food assets.

4. WIX.COM: Rhett & Link

Rhett & Link make funny commercials. They should have made this one.

Why look up a Youtube demonstration video when I can see the same thing on TV’s most expensive night?

5. SQUARE SPACE: Make It With Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves isn’t just standing on a moving motorcycle. He’s reminding us to buy a domain name. I know Keanu doesn’t really care about money soooo… why did he do this? Oh! If your call to action is “See what Keanu made at squarespace.com/keanu”, you might want to have the site he made be there and not an overview of the process he followed. 

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